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Hunger scare as price of rice surges

By Oluwatunmise Yusuf
31 October 2022   |   4:03 am
As farmers and processors continue to count their losses due to recurring flooding across the country, the price of food commodities, especially rice, has surged in the last two weeks.

A flooded rice farm

As farmers and processors continue to count their losses due to recurring flooding across the country, the price of food commodities, especially rice, has surged in the last two weeks.
  
The price of a 50kg bag of foreign rice sold between N32,500 and N34,000 early this month but is now N40,000, while local rice of the same size has increased from N28,000 to N37,000.
  
The development has not only aggravated hunger in households who can no longer afford the staple food, traders and other stakeholders have also cried out, saying the development is capable of aggravating the hardship in the country.
 


While industry players have attributed the price hike to flooding, The Guardian learnt from traders that the development is also not unconnected with renewed onslaughts on smugglers by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), leading to seizure of the commodity.
  
Just weeks ago, flood submerged the 4,500 hectares of Olam rice farms in Nasarawa State, destroying crops worth over $15m. The flood also destroyed infrastructures such as dykes, canals and others worth about $8m. 
  
It is the same sad story in Niger, Benue, Kebbi, Kogi, Jigawa and other rice producing states, as over 50 per cent of rice farms have been wiped away, according to reports. 
  
A rice dealer at the popular Ejigbo market, Lagos, Mr. Chidera, who expressed shock at the sudden development, said the price hike has negatively impacted his business.
  
“Early September, we sold the 50kg bag of the local rice between N24,000 and N27,000. Currently, we are selling between N37,000 and N40,000. The reason for this price increase is the flood incident in major rice producing states, as most farmlands were wiped off. I am afraid the price may not come down soon,” he said.
  
Chidera added that according to distributors, the price of the foreign rice is surging due to issues with the Customs officers’ who have been preventing them at the borders.
  
At the Irepodun Ikotun Market, another trader, Iya Shina, said: “A bag of foreign rice that sold at the rate of N34,000 is now N42,000, while local rice sold for N20,000 is now N36,000.”
  
Another trader at the Ile-Iwe market, Emeka Miracle, said a Derica measure of rice previously sold for N500 now sells for N750. “We can no longer get the foreign rice because of the faceoff between the customs officers and the smugglers. I do not have any option than to sell the local rice for now.
 
“Unfortunately, the price of the local brand has also increased. From the distributors, a bag is now N38,500, it makes it difficult for me to add more profit, so as not to scare customers. Another issue is the bad state of the roads, making it difficult to transport goods at a lesser cost.”
    

The Guardian learnt that food vendors are also lamenting the price increase. An operator at the Harmony restaurant, Ikotun, who doesn’t want her name mentioned, said she has lost some of her regular customers, just as her daily turnover has also reduced.
   
“The fastest selling food has become the slowest, as people order for other options that are cheaper and affordable. Government should do something urgently to drop the price hike, to avoid people dying of starvation.”
  
The Managing Director, Green Sahara Farms, Plateau State, Suleiman Dikwa, who rued the development, said though the flooding and the climate change is a global issue, “The most important thing a government can do is to offer palliative, as the climate devastation across the country will affect yields from the farms.
   
“We need to develop short, medium and long term solutions. By comparison, Nigeria has not done bad in managing inflation but our cry is that we can do better. The issue is beyond the farmers, but a global economic issue that cuts across sectors.”

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